Yellow-and-blue in Turkey for tough test

Farmar, Sofo & Co. hope to make it three consecutive Euroleague victories tonight vs Efes.

MACCABI TEL AVIV FORWARD Lior Eliyahu 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Anadolu Efes Istanbul in the Euroleague on Thursday night, hoping to prove that last week’s impressive victory over Real Madrid was no coincidence.
After an erratic start to its continental campaign, which included a disappointing defeat at Olimpia Milano and an unconvincing home win over Partizan Belgrade, Maccabi fired on all cylinders last week, beating an extremely deep and balanced Real roster in a thrilling encounter at Nokia Arena.
The Spaniards had no answer to Maccabi’s offensive game-plan led by Jordan Farmar, who superbly orchestrated his team’s play and earned Week 3 MVP honors by scoring 27 points on 10-of-12 from the field.
Sofoklis Schortsanitis ran amok under the basket, allowing David Blu and Devin Smith to hurt Madrid from distance, while Maccabi also did an excellent job defensively, limiting Real – which entered the encounter as the competition’s best offensive team – to 40 percent from the field.
Efes presents Maccabi with another stern test on Thursday, especially with the game being held in Istanbul amid the current tense relations between Turkey and Israel.
Maccabi hired a special security officer to coordinate the operations to maintain its safety in Istanbul, but forward Lior Eliyahu is far more concerned with finding a way to defeat a dangerous Istanbul team.
“I know Maccabi has taken care of the security matters and we players prefer not to deal with things that are out of our control,” said Eliyahu, who will be looking to bounce back from his two-point performance against Madrid.
“We need to focus on the very difficult game we face in Turkey. We are very fresh and hungry and I feel that we are going through a good period. Hopefully, we can handle this difficult game and come back home in one piece with a victory.”
Like Maccabi, Efes has also got a 2-1 record in Group C, although unlike Tel Aviv it has won both of its games on the road, including in Milano last week, while losing its only home encounter so far to Charleroi.
Istanbul has been led by Terence Kinsey (15.0 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game), Ersan Ilyasova (13.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg), who will return to the Milwaukee Bucks when the NBA lockout ends, and Sasha Vujacic (12.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg), who after seven seasons in the NBA has returned to Europe on a full-time basis.
“This will be the first game at Sinan Erdem Arena in front of our big crowd and we expect them to be our sixth player,” Vujacic said. “Obviously we are going to play against a great team. It will be a tough game so we have to find the way to protect our home court and record the victory.”
Vujacic, who is engaged to tennis superstar Maria Sharapova, will meet an old friend on Thursday, having played with Farmar for four seasons at the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as during the back end of last season at the New Jersey Nets.
“We’ve spent a lot of time together, on and off the court, in the past five seasons,” Farmar said. “Sasha is a terrific player, a pure shooter; he was the shooting guard while I was the point guard.
He played a big part in the Lakers’ success during those great years.
“I was really happy that he joined us last season at the Nets, and it’s going to be fun to see him this week. I’m sure we’ll sit down and exchange memories and experiences. But on the court on Thursday, I’ll forget that he’s my friend and do everything I can to help Maccabi get another win.”
Despite its overall superb play against Madrid, Maccabi continued to struggle from three-point range.
Tel Aviv has made the fewest three pointers in the competition after three games with a total of just 13 out of 48 attempts (27 percent), but coach David Blatt can at least draw some encouragement from the fact that Maccabi has turned the ball over fewer times than any other Euroleague team with only 24 turnovers so far this season.
“The game against Real was amazing on both ends of the court,” Blatt said.
“Both teams were excellent and so is the team we are facing on Thursday. I’m hoping for a similar game in Istanbul and hopefully we will have the upper hand once more.”